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The History of an Appeal to Heaven Flag, AKA Pine Tree Flag!

Published on
September 21, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDT September 21, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDTst, September 21, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDT

What is there to say about the Pine Tree flag that you haven’t heard before? Well, the Appeal to Heaven flag also went by the name the Tree Flag and was one of the first flags that the freedom fighters used during the American Revolution. The history of the Pine Tree Flag is filled with battles, revolution, religion, and a bit of divinity.


Therefore, let’s start the story from the very beginning!


Main Reason for the Pine Tree Flag


Was Appeal to Heaven flag voted by Congress as the official American flag? Far from it. Back in the day when Americans started their battle for freedom with success, opportunities arose to fly any flag representing America. Not just to declare a victory, but for the occupied forts to be clearly distinguishable from the ones still kept by the British.


It just happened so that due to the turn of events, this was the flag that was designed and chosen to fly on Washington’s battleships.


Why the Pine Tree


There are two possible reasons why the pine tree was chosen as the central image.


First of all, the story goes beyond the arrival of the colonists, while the indigenous tribes were still fighting among themselves for the right to territory in the 16th century. Five nations were warring for decades before they decided to put an end to it once and for all. As a symbol of the treaty, the tribe leaders buried their weapons under a pine tree, which eventually became known as the “tree of peace”. In time, the pine tree also got associated with the multi-tribal support of American independence and support of the Revolutionary War.


The second reason has to do with the very nature of the tree, to say the least. Pilgrims noted the qualities of New England’s eastern white pine and soon began exporting it. The tree was extremely valued in the colonial shipbuilding industry due to its high quality and dimensions. So, a pine tree was observed as something precious.


It is precisely the preciousness of the pine tree that led to further events that would inspire the Appeal to Heaven Pine Tree flag design.


Pine Tree Riot — the Beginning of the Rebellion


As pine trees were so precious for building army ships, the British government issued a statute that banned 12-inch diameter trees to be cut. A New Hampshire mill owner, who refused to pay the fine for having cut the forbidden pine trees, started a riot with other mill owners and townsmen against the sheriff and his deputy who came to arrest the mill owner. In short, the two officials were whipped with a tree switch and forced out of the town with glee.


This act was taken as one of the first protests against British rule and policies, so the pine tree became associated with rebellion. This made it a perfect fit for the revolutionary flag(s).


Meaning Behind Appeal to Heaven


To fully grasp the meaning of this quote on the Pine Tree flag, one has to go back in history to the times of kings and queens. Namely, the people were taught king or queen had the divine right to rule. Hence, any action against them would be considered an ultimate sin, a rebellion against Heaven, a devil’s work.


In order to justify the American fight for freedom from this common point of view, British philosopher John Locke gave his opinion against the theory of the divine right in his Second Treatise on Civil Government.


In short, Locke explained that if the appeal on earth fails, the people have to appeal to heaven for justice and guidance. If they can’t fulfill a just cause by appealing to earthly laws and rulers, they can make an appeal to heaven to reach justice.


Naturally, John Locke was very popular among freedom fighters and his appeal to heaven has been mentioned even in official documents such as the Declaration of Independence.


The Design and Adoption


To sum up, all of the above led to the adoption of the flag on October 21st, 1775, as George Washington needed a flag for the commissioned ships. The Pine Tree flag designer was Washington’s secretary, Colonel Joseph Reed.


Just a year after, in 1776, the Appeal to Heaven flag was adopted as the state navy flag.


Appeal to Heaven Flag Today


Nowadays, the pine tree flag or is not as popular as it once was. Depending on the usage, it can be observed as a symbol of dissatisfaction with the current rule, or some even interpreted it as a symbol of “conservative, Biblical” principles.


Either way, the fact remains that the Appeal to Heaven flag is one of the most memorable American Revolution flags.